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The Birthday Dance - Friday, Dec. 20, 2019
Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2019 @ 12:47 am
Climbing Trip: Part I
The afternoon is rainy, and we set off from the oceanfront campground on paddle boards, raindrops falling on my bare arms and legs. We tour around the moored sailboats, admiring the varnished woods, the towering masts, the gracefully curved hulls, on the way to the end of the spit.
We stand on bleached and weathered logs at the end of the point of land. Ocean waves fold over themselves, over and over, rounded gravel shifting with each passing wash of water.
“May there be whales!” I speak authoritatively and reach up with my arms, dramatically conjuring a cetacean ballet towards us.
Russell surveys the horizon with binoculars, then passes the glasses to me. I study the fishing boats, the distant coastline. And then a jet of white steam punctuates the distant coastal evergreen forest.
“Whales!” I jump up and down laughing and squealing. A pod of whales rises, their dark backs carving through the ocean surface. A black tail exquisitely arcs through the air and then cuts back below the surface.
On the way back to the campground we paddle side-by-side through clear water, over beds of oysters and clams and seaweed. I look over at his bare chest, his smooth and tanned skin, the shape of his muscles, the way that he holds and moves his paddle. My heart catches, and I want to press my mouth onto his skin, to taste the salt, to feel his warmth against my face.
For dinner, I buy a pail of spot prawn tails and he grills them in the dusky evening light. The tide is high, and I dip the prawns in butter and lick my fingers. Decadent and rich, this life. Overcome with gratitude. I am fortunate, so fortunate, for this, for everything.
We hike into the woods and follow a hand-drawn map that leads us to black, angular crags. The forest is thick with swordferns, and red-bodied forest snails silently traverse the soft forest floor.
A sudden rain. We huddle beneath an overhang of basalt, still wearing harnesses and helmets, sheltering ourselves from the sudden and heavy rainstorm. The hardware that hangs from my waist clinks with each shift of my body. Rainwater runs in rivulets down the cracks in the crag. I lean into him and kiss his damp neck. I step behind him and press my hands into his shoulders, working through the sore spots, loosening the cords of tight muscles.
“Where did I find you?” he asks.
“In the West End,” I joke.
“You are the best,” he says.
“You are the best. The best for me,” I respond.
“You are the best for me too.”
The rain and the mushrooms springing forth from the soil and the rope coiled and lanky and damp with rainwater on the ground beside us. Mud on my face.
I think that he just told me that he loves me.
We lay one night in the dark in the narrow bed in the van. The bed is sloping, so he holds me in a tight embrace. I am sleepy and loose from the wine. My body aching from the long day of climbing.
“I appreciate that you trust me to hold you, to catch your falls, to be on the other end of the rope after knowing me for only a short time,” I tell him.
“I trust you more than anyone else in my life right now,” he says.
I tighten my grip around his chest, trying to press him into the ache that pulses around my heart. He tightens his grip around me in response.
We fall asleep and wake in the morning in the same tangled heap of arms and legs. A beautiful mess of bruises, scrapes, lean muscles, and expanses of tanned skin. Lingering campfire smoke and ocean salt.
We make love in the thin and grey morning light. His body against mine, and inside mine, and our mouths pressed together. The slow, unhurried love; the exploration. He starts to tell me what he’s thinking about, in detail, and my eyes go wide and my mind rolls over in disbelief at the lyrical details that come forth quietly from his mouth. This is intimacy.
After, we drink coffee and read books quietly in chairs on the beach, watching the mist burn off and the tide recede.
This. All of this. Everything. My heart aching, my heart full.
The before was not love. I have not loved a man, truly loved a man, before the now. What I thought was love was not; I did not deeply care. But this - this is so different - and the essence of love becomes clear. I want for him to be happy, and I give and give and give and the giving brings me infinite joy. I ask, and he responds. I talk, and he listens. His hand nearly always touching a part of my body, a reassuring link between his heart and mine. Trust. Infinite trust that has never had a reason to waver.
Where did I find you?
You are the best.
I trust you more than anyone else in my life right now.
Eight months ago today, I walked into the house and saw the punched-in bathroom door. Swept the splintered wood up from the floor, feeling as though I was to blame for his anger, that I had done something wrong. Apologized over and over, cried, and climbed into the attic to sleep alone.
Today, I am loved. Deeply and fully loved, without conditions. There are no broken doors, no yelled accusations, no demeaning comments.
Today, I am happy.